Monday, June 13, 2016

Movie Review #438: "Now You See Me 2" (2016)

Movie"Now You See Me 2"
Director: Jon M. Chu
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 9 minutes
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The Four Horsemen have been living in hiding for the last 18 months. Now, The Eye finally has a plan for them to reemerge with a new mission to expose a tech company that is developing a product that causes a massive invasion of privacy. Unfortunately, their show is sabotaged, and while they are fleeing, they jump down a tube only to come out the other end in China. They find they have been abducted by a tech genius named Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), who was believed to be dead. Now, Mabry wants the Horsemen to steal a computer chip, one that he invented but was taken from him by a former partner, that functions as a backdoor to every computer system on earth. 

From Jon M. Chu, the director of "Justin Bieber: Never Gonna Stop" and "Jem and the Holograms" comes "Now You See Me 2." This is the sequel to the mediocre yet surprisingly popular magic-themed heist flick "Now You See Me" from 2013. Three of the four horsemen are back, those being J. Daniel Atlas played by Jesse Eisenberg, Merritt McKinney played by Woody Harrelson, and Jack Wilder played by Dave Franco. Ilsa Fisher's Henley Reeves has been written out of this sequel due to the actress' real life pregnancy and has since been replaced by shock magician Lula May, played by Lizzy Caplan, to make sure there's still a "girl horseman." Also returning is their now-leader, FBI agent Dylan Rhodes, played by Mark Ruffalo (along with his "Spotlight" facial expressions), as well as magic debunker Thaddeus Bradley, played by Morgan Freeman, and insurance mogul Arthur Tressler, played by Michael "I'll Take the Part" Caine. New to the cast are tech genius Walter Mabry, played by Daniel Radcliffe, and FBI deputy director Natalie Austin, played by Sanaa Lathan. Of course, it's blatantly obvious that Daniel Radcliffe is only in this because the writers wanted to make a joke about Harry Potter in their magic movie, but we digress.

The acting from these individuals serves to elevate the sub-par material found in this sequel. Jesse Eisenberg is actually tolerable here, though we always feel like he's putting on his best Mark Zuckererg performance. Woody Harrelson pulls double duty this time around, but we only liked one of his two personalities. The other is a cartoon shell of his Merrick character, who is already a smartass enough. Dave Franco is in this movie, that's about all we can say about him. Newcomer Lizzy Caplan adds some much needed sarcasm and charm to the stodgy group. Caplan is a much better Horseman than Isla Fisher. We wish Sanaa Lathan had more to work with because the character of Natalie Austin does feel kind of useless in the grand scheme of everything going on.

Much like the first installment, the Horsemen are called upon to do a seemingly impossible heist and use their skills as magicians to pull it off. The same formula used previously is also followed here. The characters pull off their little trick, then a short time later, it gets followed up by a scene of "Magic's Biggest Secrets Revealed," divulging how they pulled it off. As was the case in the original, the reveal is far less believable than the tricks themselves, requiring the most contrived, over-complicated things to line up for the trick to actually be pulled off without a hitch. This time around, in addition to the contrivances, the many, many gaping holes in the story are filled with hypnotism, the tried and true plot device that gets used over ans over to explain why anything that couldn't have actually happened actually happens.

The main problem of "Now You See Me 2," besides these plot holes, is its constant misdirection and multiple red herrings. The film is content to send moviegoers down one path, only to do a complete 180 with no explanation as to why. Some details feel like they are not divulged, some tidbits often lead nowhere, others are covered up just because. This is just poor storytelling. The movie might as well have been called "Now You See Me Stealing Millions From Your Pockets With Our Half-Assed Attempt at Filmmaking." Coupled with this is our inability to suspend our disbelief. It's just not possible here, even more so than the original. We never feel invested in what's going on because we know there will be a flimsy excuse, a misdirection, or an all-out ignoring of a legitimate explanation at the end of it all. That, and all the CGI. Man, some of the visuals are good here, but the overuse of CGI in a movie about magic is inexcusable! To us, "Now You See Me 2" may have been more believable if the characters had actually started to go full Harry Potter by using real magic.

This is not to say there aren't some entertaining moments, because there are, even if that entertainment doesn't amount to anything more than a visual spectacle. Some moviegoers crave watching things that are all flash and no substance, which is certainly what we found to be true here. The plot falls apart at even the tiniest bit of scrutiny and even has elements that don't make sense, especially when tied in with the first film. We feel nearly the same as we did after seeing the original. "Now You See Me 2" wants the audience to think it's a really smart movie, but in the end, it's just pretty stupid. We don't doubt some people will enjoy it, but we are simply indifferent. The acting might be fine, but the gaping holes in the story, the heavy reliance on CGI in place of practical effects for the magic tricks, and the tired plot and its constant red herrings makes this more of a dud than a astonishment for us. Turn off your brain and enjoy it with a big bucket of popcorn.

PS: Stop making everyone's eyes sparkly purple in post.

My Rating: 5/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~7.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~35%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.
One year ago, we were watching: "Aloha"

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